famine

famine

By: Shine Ballard

i’m unsure if i feel more im
poverished, povero in times
of summer or winter, whether
of heat adhering, humidly
hewed, to the skin, (s)weltering
or of hope stole like breath, snowily
fleeting—condensation of some
part soma and some some part suppose(d)

have&lack : the chiaroscuro of being

Shine Ballard, otiose&outré, currently creates and resides on this plane(t).

You can find Shine @xShine14 on Twitter.

We I Us

We I Us

By: Jack Buck

in an attempt to show what’s challenging to translate
I watch nature planet earth documentaries to better
prepare for death and what’s ahead for us 

(when financial inheritance is generational
sitting on the sidelines is the embodiment of
an effort to protect a recognizable pattern)

today like the birds we’ve left and gone away before
leaving all of that behind our previous selves lost by
indecision in timing to join in the sum of efforts  

(aloha family and friends 
when you die some of me will die 
while simultaneously you will continue 
living on through me or 
maybe it will be me continuing 
by the way of you)

I’ll think about that right now 
to better live my life

(one of my friends points out how poets 
keep bringing up birds to explain things 
that’s perfectly fine 
the more birds the better)

look over there now it’s winter 
it’s snowing let’s go outside in our 
winter coats and sit in the summer lawn chairs
to read your book of poems to keep us warm
this is us happily on fire 

(just like you I’m obsessed with art 
can you blame us)
it’s suddenly spring again 
and I’m in the sun 
leaned against a wall 
a shadow of you and me

(companion planting is defined as 
inter-planting of two or more crops that
will benefit from being near 
similar to that intention I write 
all of us into a photopoem) 

a meditation where words of language
grow silent to not get in the way 
its title: a continuous combat against division
the preface: a prayer book of 
poem lines setting out together making our way

(where does it begin 
was it then 
what about now 
it is now) 

almost like a mellowing out 
that nobody has to pretend any longer
humming along tiptoeing around 
the subjects at dinner parties 
its consequence a tremendous reassurance
of who you are 

(you write your name on the wall 
with the rest and look at the sky 
endlessly outstretched towards God) 

there’s a self-made myth that claims
it’s of the heroic individual 
I disagree 
it was always our collective effort

Jack C. Buck lives in Boise, Idaho. He is the author of the books Gathering View and Deer Michigan.

You can find Jack at @Jack_C_Buck on Twitter.

ALIEN RESURRECTION (1997)

ALIEN Resurrection (1997)

By: Paris Howard

All I can think about
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎Really
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Are girders, now

Who is
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Getting viscous
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ In the cross-hatch

And in the complex poetry
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Of the ship

I learned to live alone
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Sui generis,
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Orbits ago

Snuffing, I gained
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Rolling fully in my
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Molecules.

I knew I would never
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Be happy
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Nor had I

Any psychology
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ To speak of.

Hunger was my
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Egg phase

I was a membrane in which
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Everything ate
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎Each voracious sheeting

It was not hunger anymore,
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ It was just being
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Each star in the eye of the universe
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ (A blind owl itself)
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Simply an empty stomach or four
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ I tooth, a tooth,
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Corrosive.

(I did not know what is an owl)

I
A slackening egg
In my first instar,
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Made of black meat,
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎Hung

I had endless
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Conjoining potential
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ I laid then my
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Genitals over the rock.

I did not know
What is a man
Or a meal.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ That came later.

In this being
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ There was no
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Axis.

No orientation.
Knowing now what
I do know with
My new parts
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ You cannot conceive [it].

When the tick-tick
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Of my life cycle
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Went on.

Then
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Finally
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ A visitor,
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ A womb.

Spartan men
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Dragged their
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Boot heels
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Across my ceramic.

Encountered
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ With no awareness
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Of my livingness
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ A field of flowers.

They thought
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ My slime meant
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Malice, I was
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Just my babies

I could not be otherwise.
Whose rapacity
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Was it really?

Untergrund they saw:
Matting, spiderous,
Hollowed, Gulf
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Oil, Snapping
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Chain capability
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎Grasping
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ My place

I had to pounce first.

Since I am a cloud
Of taking,
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ I took the tools
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎They held
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ In their flesh.

I know:
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Owls, women, cortex, soil.

I remain
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎One boiling calculation —
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ One [God] mirror —
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎Good luck.

Paris Howard is a Berlin-based writer, sex worker and mutual aid worker. She has published essays in Prospero, The Quietus and 3AM Magazine, and poems in Lesbians Are Miracles and Openwork Magazine.

‏‏You can find Paris on Twitter @tr3tinoin.

Making Friends with Your Five-Year-Old Self: A Crash Course

Making Friends With Your Five-Year-Old Self: A Crash Course

By: Brent Hearn

First off, it’s important to meet him in a familiar place. Your grandparents’ backyard, say. Right beside the balding patch of grass where the basketball goal is set up, where the long, cracked-concrete, skinned-knee driveway ends and that forever backyard begins.

When you tell him who you are, it’s a toss-up as to whether he’ll believe you. On the one hand, he’ll want to because he still sees magic everywhere. On the other, he’s been warned about strangers.

Either way, he’ll probably test you.

So when he asks What do you call those lightey-up-the-night bugs? you’ll smile and say Oh, you mean the lightning butts? Then he’ll giggle and you’ll have him.

When he asks if he can touch your beard, let him. He’ll run his small fingers through it and across the top of your bald head, laughing and saying It scratches! while you envy his straight blond hair and how the Mississippi heat warps and prisms the sunlight to show you the reds too. He’ll see the lines around your eyes and the tinges of white in the hair around your chin, things he already knows to associate with people who are either old or getting there.

This will scare him.

You can ask me anything, you’ll tell him. He forms the words in his head first, his fear, his shyness, and a five-year-old’s rudimentary grasp of tact playing tug-of-war with his curiosity. Do you see Mommy much? You know what he’s really asking: If I’m that old, Mommy must be really old. Or…

Pretty often you’ll say. In fact, I’m seeing her this weekend! His eyes light up and he says Me too! And then it hits you what’s next and you don’t even have time to finish the thought before he asks What about Daddy?

You turn your head–but not fast enough–and he knows.

He just lost Grandaddy, and that taught him to recognize the heaviness in the air when someone has bad news. He starts to cry and you remember that day and the one when you got the call about Daddy, and you cry too. You wipe your eyes with the back of your hand, and he does the same. It’s okay, you say softly. You’ve still got time.

You don’t say It won’t nearly be enough.

While you’re trying to think of something that will make him feel better, he beats you to it. You wanna play short shot/long shot? You say Only if it won’t hurt your feelings too bad when I win, and then he promptly destroys you. That goal is nowhere near regulation–he’s used to it and he works the backboard like a champ.

You’re on game three, finally hitting your stride, talking to him about which is cooler–Michael Knight’s Trans Am or Magnum’s Ferrari–when a woman’s voice calls out from the house telling him to come inside, that the batter is done mixing if he wants lick the bowl.

You manage to turn your head before he sees this time.

He asks if you want to come in and have some of Mimi’s brownies and oh God please please please you’d give everything you have but you know there’s only enough magic for one more thing, so you make him forget the stuff about Daddy and then say I have to go now, but you be sure to mind Mimi and Papaw and Look out for your little brother, okay? and You’ll see me again before you know it.

Brent Hearn writes poetry, plays, fiction, and comedy. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Sledgehammer Lit, The Minison Project, The Daily Drunk, Defenestration, Drunk Monkeys, The Offbeat, and on various Mississippi stages. You should hit him up sometime, maybe talk dessert. Over dessert.

You can find Brent @rollnwrite on Twitter and @armbard on Instagram.

Insomnia

Insomnia

By: Isabella Melians

content warning : abortion

She won’t let me sleep. She has been standing at the foot of my bed for five nights now, sixty hours, three hundred minutes, two hundred and sixteen thousand seconds. When I close my eyes I swear I can smell her honey breath, her whispered chant of why, why, why. Lukewarm tears trace their way down my cheeks, finding their home in my threadbare satin pillowcase. My ragged breaths falter across eggshell sheets, breaking her rhythmic mantra. I want to explain to her that it wasn’t supposed to end this way, she should have been born, he should be here, I shouldn’t feel so guilty. But my mouth is glued shut, reducing my remorse and apologies to flutter against my hollow chest. 

It’s 1 am, any sane person would be asleep by now, but I feel like anything but. The muted world outside does nothing to silence her probing question, leaving just my rambling mind and her pulsing inquiries. He left us without a second thought. Why, why, why. I couldn’t raise her alone, it should have been both of us. Why, why, why. It would have been perfect: married at 24, pregnant at 25. Grace for a girl, Orion for a boy. Why, why, why. I should have told someone, I should have considered keeping her. Why, why, why. I shouldn’t have gone to the clinic alone. Why. 

Amber hair cascades over the left side of her face, leaving a single cerulean iris to peer out. She would have had her father’s eyes. Her hair is frizzy and her eyebrows are unplucked, she seems almost feral. I see myself in each untamable fiber running rampant across the side of her head. My fingers prickle with the slightest urge to smooth her wild strands. Her nose scrunches in perplexity, the freckles dotted across its bridge compressing in a single fold of skin.  Scarlet lips frown in puzzlement, uncertainty falling across tan features. Her intrusive interrogation is currently inaudible, chapped lips channeling the ghost of her supercilious question. Why, why, why. My mother always said you could tell who was a Flores by their heavy upper lip. The orange lamp outside flickers in irregularity. In between flashes her tear-stained cheeks gain a new streak. 

Now it’s 2:45 am. Rain is pummeling against my bedroom window, but neither of us move. Her hands fidget with a sole strand of hair, twirling and untwirling it around her finger. A familiar expression crosses her face, eyes turning sorrowful. I wore the same expression when  I swallowed the first pill. My shaking hands had fumbled before reaching my mouth, the chalky pill burning as I swallowed. Images flash across my mind. A dazed person staring in a mirror, white pill in hand. Surely that person couldn’t have been me? Legs gave out beneath me, I didn’t try to stop the fall. My hand was bleeding, how did it get cut? Cold tile comforted me as I lay alone. Her sorrowful eyes mirrored my own tearful own. 

It’s 3 am. Her form now flickering in between ages indecisively. At first a tiny baby squirms in her crib, entranced in the dance of stars and birds above her head. She is dressed in a white onesie rimmed in pink, cotton socks warming otherwise bare feet. Grace is embroidered along the side. Toothless gums release frantic whimpers before being comforted by a striped pacifier. 

The next second generates a wobbling toddler trotting towards an ice cream cone, vanilla sliding down its sides. Sandy feet eagerly fumble across the earth, a salty wind tousling blonde hair. The sunlight catches her eyes as she reaches the cone, pure joy lighting up pudgy cheeks. Sticky fingers leave traces of the desert across a checkered dress. 

She changes again, a teenager now, sporting purple hair that falls short at her arms. A burgundy dress hangs off of her shoulders, satin circling beneath her knees. Shimmering lip gloss paints her face, her hair curled and tied back in a sapphire pin. When the doorbell rings she jumps nervously to her feet, hesitant steps echoing across the tile hall. 

 By 3:30 am she has become harrowed, a ruffled yellow dress contrasting the dark circles beneath her eyes. She carries a Starbucks cup in her right hand, handbag in her left, as she trudges towards a stone building. A white coat is draped across her shoulders, reading “Dr. Flores.” A sigh escapes her, turning the air in front of her a hazy white. 

A flush in her cheeks the next instant, a baby gently tugs at hair reaching down her back. The microwave beeps and she pulls out a bottle of warmed milk, testing its warmth on the back of her hand. A framed photo rests on a shelf adjacent to the fridge. In a white dress, she kisses a dark haired gentleman. 

But then she turns withered, once vibrant skin sagging at the joints. She lays in her bed, surrounded by flowers and cards. An automated machine steadies her breathing, chest falling in cadence. Her eyes are unmoving beneath her lids, stuck in an everlasting dream. 

At 3:45 am she materializes in her original appearance. She just stands there, in her own silent vigil. Her hands lie still at her sides. The only sound in the room is our breathing. The silence surrounds us, encompassing the slightest creak of wood or flutter of branches scratching at the window. It extends its velvet hands until they circle around my heart and squeeze. It becomes hard to breath, I know I am inhaling yet the oxygen never seems to actually enter my lungs. I’m left gasping for air. It takes 15 minutes to steady my breathing, frigid air soothing my clenched lungs. My eyes dart around the room, skimming over wilted roses and stacked vintage books. Widened pupils glide across my mother’s jade necklace, turtleneck sweaters piled on wooden chair hangers littered on mosaic tile, and across my daughter herself. Despite being smothered beneath three downy blankets, my skin turns icy. Heartbeats strum against my chest, skin trembling with each passing pulse. The ceiling trembles beneath heavy drops of rain, creaks threatening to cave in and surrender to the storm. Sweat beads across my forehead, trails of salt falling across my icy cheeks. She knows I deserve this. 

Isabella Melians (she/her) is a 16-year-old sophomore attending school in south Florida. She is the vice president of her school’s writing club, “The Writer’s Circle”, and has been acknowledged by publications including Cathartic Youth Literary Magazine, Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, The Weight Journal, Same Faces Collective, The Raindrop Magazine, Ice Lolly Review, and other reviewers. In her free time, she enjoys playing the cello, watercolor painting, and fostering with a local pet rescue.

Find Isabella @isabellam_04 on Instagram.

Midnight

Midnight

By: Antara Gupta

Mahi flicks her cigarette. I watch the ashes float down to the ground from the sixth floor of the apartment building and cross my arms, resting them against the tall black railing surrounding the balcony. The night is warm, but the cold from the floor tiles seeps in through my bare feet. The light from the bathroom vent behind us casts Mahi’s face into shadows. The noise from the construction a few streets over assaults our ears and Mahi talks louder than usual.

“Well, for an early verse translation you should probably go with Hobbes. You can try Lattimore too but I deeply prefer his Odyssey to his Iliad,” she pulls her long dark waves to fall over one shoulder and takes out her vape from the back pocket of her night shorts. With most of her hair out of the way, her neck tattoo of an Urdu poem peeks through the few errant tresses. I can’t see it too well in the dim light, but my memory fills the dark gaps the light can’t reach.

“Take a drag, I don’t want to be smoking alone,” she hands the vape to me.

I take the cylinder from her, put the cool metal to my lips and inhale deeply. It tastes like oranges this time. The first time I tried to vape was two years ago. Mahi and I were in London, travelling with my parents. We hung back as they walked along the river to make sure they didn’t see us. It tastes like ash back then and I choked on it. I don’t choke anymore.

“So Lattimore for the Odyssey?” I ask, smoke pushing past my lips and covering my words with its haze.

“No, fuck him. Emily Wilson all the way.”

“You know I’m not going to remember all this, right?”

Mahi rolls her eyes and turns towards me. “Fine, I’ll text you but you better star the messages because I won’t send them again.”

I laugh and take another drag before giving the vape back to her. “Yeah, whatever. I won’t read them anytime soon anyway.”

“Yes, because you suck.”

“Hey! I traveled all the way to Gujarat to meet you. Some gratitude would be nice.”

Mahi snorts and puts the cigarette out against the railing. “Okay, that’s fair enough. Gujarat is fucking disgusting. I can’t believe we moved here.”

I smirk and nod in agreement.

“Anyway,” Mahi says, turning to lean her back against the railing, “I enrolled for my classes yesterday and I got into one called Masala Shakespeare, and what else do I have to say to convince you to move back to India and come attend Ashoka with me?”

I groan and slide down to sit on the floor. My back rests against the door leading back inside the house and my legs extend in front of me, Slivers of light from under the door illuminate the cracks in the tiles as they make their way around my body. I watch as Mahi ambles towards the wall, reaches up on her tiptoes and stretchers her arm towards the vent. She pats around until she finds the stash of cigarettes.

I frown. “What the fuck?”

She taps a cigarette out of the pack and puts in back in the vent before settling down against the wall underneath it. Her legs lie on top of mine. The yellow light from the vent drips down from the top of her head and bathes her in gold.

“My mother keeps stealing my cigarettes and lying to me about it, so I’m trying to figure out where I can put them where she won’t find them,” Mahi says as she lights her cigarette.

I don’t even know why I’m surprised anymore. I lean my head against the door and close my eyes. I hear Mahi exhale loudly and smell the smoke in the air.

“Can we go inside? I’m tired.”

“Shut up and stay with me.”

Antara (she/her) is a 21-year-old queer Indian writer. She primarily writes creative non-fiction along with occasional forays into speculative fiction. When she is not writing, you can find her behind a book, knitting, coding, or throwing impromptu  dance parties.

You can find Antara @ag_ressive on Twitter.

A Science Fiction Story

A Science Fiction Story

By: Andre Peltier

There are two basic stories
in science fiction concerning
Earth-based inter-stellar
exploration.

The first (1) being
people from Earth
leaving
and meeting alien
civilizations
elsewhere in the
galaxy/universe/multiverse.
In this story,
people flee Earth,
often due to some catastrophe
(either one that has occurred
or one impending)
(either one caused by
environmental collapse
or the ravages of war),
in a feeble attempt
to save the fate
of human-kind.
In this exodus story,
humans occasionally travel
to distant stars
solely for the scientific
knowledge gained
or the glory of the conquest.
Regardless of the motives,
the attempts generally fail.
When success occurs,
we invariably see through the façade,
we invariably become aware
of the fiction.
We are always-already
aware of the ending.
The ending is always the same.
The fate of humanity is set.
Environmental collapse,
the ravages of war,
the unending quest for
glory: our fate is sealed.

The second (2) being
beings from
elsewhere in the
galaxy/universe/multiverse
come to earth.
In this story,
they arrive
for the same reasons
humans leave in story one (1):
there is an environmental collapse,
a ward-torn history,
a search for glory
(occasionally a lack of
women or Santa Clauses,
but that lack falls under
the heading of
environmental collapse
as the lack of women
or Santa Clauses
is really a subset of lack
of resources due to
mismanagement
of said resources).
Occasionally they come
in peace, but usually
the arrival is heated and violent.
Regardless of their motives,
the attempts generally
end in destruction.
Humanity panics and fails.
When success occurs,
when the dumb luck of the invaders’
immune system intervenes,
we invariably see through the façade,
we invariably become aware
of the fiction.
We are always-already
aware of the ending.
The ending is always the same.
“Take us to your leader,”
“You must change
your warring ways,”
“We are out of moms…
or Santas:”

our fate is sealed

Andre F. Peltier is a Lecturer III at Eastern Michigan University where he has taught African American Literature, Afrofuturism, Science Fiction, Poetry, and Freshman Composition since 1998. He lives in Ypsilanti, MI, with his wife, children, turtles, dog, and cat. His poetry has appeared in Big Whoopie Deal, Fahmidan Journal, and Tofu Ink and is forthcoming in The Great Lakes Review, La Piccioletta Barca, Prospectus, Griffel, The Write Launch and an anthology from Quillkeepers Press. In his free time, he obsesses about soccer and comic books.

You can find Andre @aandrefpeltier on Twitter and @andre.peltier.52 on Facebook.

prologue

prologue

By: Shine Ballard

he & i, samenamed, we counted
those stitches, together. oddly,
they were more disturbing
than that greystiffeningthing
presented, pajamaed
as it was. we had not cried
until that mathymoment—i’ve despised
arithmetic since. he cried
to his mother, i to mine,
of such laxity, the lack of
decorum—they consoled us, or they didn’t.
i cannot remember.

i swore to never again linger
over a thing that was onceliving,
not again.
it’s a sense which never becomes made.


i learned a lot that day.
how family can have skin
which is different, how cousins
can be elderly. how those lost
find us all differently. for instance :
no one taught me, as a fouryearold,
how to lose a grandmother.

i misplaced a heman once before
and tragedy was the word, at least
for a minute. i faintly recall her sleeping
there, as they esteemed it—i’ve also had
difficulty with closing my eyes there
after; rest became funereal—but it was
the doughnuts in the other room
i was missing.

i didn’t know what cigarettes or coffee were,
but the room smelled of them—and those
sweetconfections‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎no one was crying
in that room. that, too, a lesson.

Shine Ballard, otiose&outré, currently creates and resides on this plane(t).

You can find Shine at @xShine14 on Twitter.

To the former bird by Big Bear Lake

To the former bird by Big Bear Lake

By: Oakley Ayden

they plucked off every once of meat. left
your beak, feathers, feet lone and frore

scraped beside the lake’s dank shore. i’m
not sure what your story was. if i knew i’d

tell it. even if you passed your days circuiting
straightforward same, i’d beatify your mundane

down mountain, over bourbon.

Oakley Ayden (she/her) is an autistic, bisexual writer from North Carolina. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Ghost City Review, The Cabinet of Heed, Maw: Poetry Journal, Not Very Quiet,Neologism Poetry Journal, The Minison Project, Sledgehammer Literary Journal, and elsewhere. She lives in California’s San Bernardino National Forest with her two daughters.

You can find Oakley @Oakley_Ayden on Twitter and @Oakley.Ayden on Instagram.